During the pregame warmups to last night's men's hockey game between Harvard and Yale, Bulldog senior defender James Mackey spent a minute testing the boards behind the goal, throwing his 6'4", 230-pound frame against the plexiglass.
He should have acquainted himself with the Yale penalty box instead, as Harvard senior Brian Farrell scored two power play goals following Mackey penalties in the first 8:24 of the game en route to a 4-0 Crimson victory before 3,150 fans at the Bright Arena.
"For us to win, we have to stay disciplined and keep out of the penalty box," Yale interim Head Coach Dan Poliziani said. "We didn't do that in the first period."
The first twenty minutes was textbook domination by the Crimson (2-0-0, 2-0-0 ECAC), as it scored four goals on 19 shots against an outmatched goaltender in Yale's Todd Sullivan.
Harvard's aggressive forechecking led to four power plays in that first period, while the defense stifled the Elis, limiting them to five weak shots.
"We were simply outstanding in the first period," Harvard Head Coach Ronn Tomassoni said. "That was one of the best periods any team could play."
The first goal came off a nifty set-up on the power play. Senior Derek Maguire pulled up at the outer edge of the Yale (0-1, 0-1) zone and sent a shot towards the net; Farrell, perfectly positioned himself to the right of Sullivan, deflected the puck home.
"I like to score early," Farrell said. "It was a nice goal, thanks to Derek."
Just over five minutes later, Farrell collected and slam-dunked a rebound of senior Chris Baird's point shot to put the Crimson up, 2-0.
On the next shift Harvard sophomore Peter McLaughlin took a cross-checking penalty in his own zone, something that would foreshadow the Crimson's sloppiness in the final forty minutes, but aggressive penalty killing stymied the Eli power play.
And 17 seconds after McLaughlin had returned, junior Steve Martins lofted a touch pass across the Yale goal to junior Cory Gustafson, who one-timed it by Sullivan to make the score 3-0. The fourth goal came at 15:57, when Baird rebounded home Farrell's shot by the beleaguered Eli netminder.
"Farrell and Baird can play outstanding hockey--they are underrated," Tomassoni said.
Because of the team's overall execution, Harvard led by four goals after one period. Fans must have wondered if the team would hit double digits--after all, Yale could do nothing right and Harvard could do nothing wrong.
Instead, the Crimson came out flat in the remaining 40 minutes. The players took six straight sloppy penalties and lacked the offensive effort they had put out in the opening period.
"When you get up on a team like that, there is a tendency to have a letdown," Tomassoni said. "We took some foolish penalties."
Fortunately for Harvard, the best part of its game is its defense, and the aggressive penalty killing preserved the lead. The defense blocked numerous shots, and the Yale forwards fanned on several more.
As a result, sophomore goaltender Aaron Israel was untested for most of the game, as he faced only 19 shots for the game in posting his first collegiate shutout. At one point during the second period, one of Israel's teammates brought him a towel to wipe his face even though Yale hadn't sent a shot his way in several minutes.
"The toughest part is to stay mentally focused," Israel said. "Even when you don't have to make so many saves, you get exhausted from concentrating so hard."
Concentrating for a full 60 minutes is what Harvard has to do if it wants to beat the better teams in the ECAC. A good first period was enough to beat Yale, but it won't do against an RPI or even Princeton, who will invade the Bright Arena for a 7:00 contest tonight.
"Princeton is a better team than Yale from what I've heard," Tomassoni said. "A really good team will make us pay for how we played tonight."
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